Pikes Peak, Colorado
Part 2: In the Tunnel
The entrance to the Oil Creek Tunnel inside of Pikes Peak
You can read the sign in Part 1: To the Tunnel
By MATT CARPENTER
If you got to this page without seeing Part 1: To the Tunnel please go there now!
Just because I have been in the Oil Creek tunnel,
and have put up a story and photos about it,
that does NOT mean that I am saying it is OK to
go into the tunnel! Read the sign posted outside
of the tunnel and make up your own mind!
In Search of the Answer
If you look back from about 100' into the tunnel you might be amazed that you can still see the entrance! Just wait, because you havent seen anything yet. Oh, in case you were wondering these are real distances. You can even see the tape measure on the ground in the photo to the right. This was our mission after all!
Not until about 450' do you come upon something a little more interesting to look at. But only a little.
At 500' you can STILL see the tunnel entrance! As Larry was running the tape off for the next 100' it started to hit me what an engineering marvel this is. Think of it this way: the water is not pooling but flowing at a nice little trickle all the way to the end. Therefore the tunnel must be running ever so slightly downhill towards the entrance.
As you pass by 600' you can see some timbers going up the wall and over your head. I may be wrong but these do not look like they are there to hold up the tunnel at this point but rather they look like they are there to divert dirt and rocks to the side of the tunnel. In fact you can see a collection of dirt on the bottom of this one.
At 700' you come upon a blast shield. The miners would get behind this to protect themselves from the rocks they were blowing apart with dynamite. Makes you think we are nearing the end and the articles in part one about the tunnel being 800' are correct, doesnt it? At least you know it goes a little farther however because you can see Larrys tape heading off to the left.
At 1000' two of the three stories on the first page have been proven incorrect. Whats more is that you can STILL see the entrance! Think about what I wrote at 500' as far as the water flow and double that! A truly amazing tunnel!
1,166' into the tunnel on the left is a little side hole about 7' deep. Perhaps a test? A place to store stuff? Don't ask me!
At 1,200' feet I had to get down low and to the right (looking out) but we could still see the entrance! That small white spot is it simply amazing! Soon after this an ever so slight turn (one of several) and we could see it no longer. Another interesting point is that along here the water was no longer on the surface and it got rather quiet.
Remember what the sign said about abandoned mine hazards? Well at 1,324' we ran into one of them. A partially collapsed section and I have the feeling these timbers were meant to hold up the roof! We had to walk up and over the rubble to keep going.
Now I am up in the collapse taking a shot back towards the entrance. The round boulder in the center is the same one you can see in the photo above. The collapse has formed a rather large room and the top is now about 30' high I would guess. High enough that my flash could not light it up enough for a good picture! However the whole area looks about the same as I had remembered it and that was comforting in that in the last 10 years the collapse has not expanded!
Now things get REALLY interesting! At, 1,338' or just 14' after the collapse is a side tunnel. The entrance to it is enough to scare anyone to death and since we had just come through the collapse we skipped it for now with the plan being to explore it on the way back out. At this point I did notice something different about this area from the first time that I came through. Back then the collapse had caused the water to form a large pool of water. I guess over the years the water has found a way through because it is gone now.
1,438' and still going. A really neat old barrel is the coolest non-living thing left in the tunnel. Or at least I think so. I can only guess that the piping was either to bring in air or take out water but who knows? There is quite a bit of it at this point in the tunnel.
Another view of some of the other trash, I mean artifacts, that still remain in the tunnel.
Larry at the end. This photo also gives some perspective as to the overall size of this area of the tunnel. Most of it was just a little shorter than this. In fact Larry bumped his head twice on the way out:-)
Like they say... You can lead a horse to water but you cant make him drink...
...but I am told that it tastes great! In fact considering that it has been flowing for over 100 years that is not a very big stain! When we were there, despite three good days of rain, the flow was like what you would have if you were to dump out a gallon of milk. Those that visited last week said it was coming out about 5 feet. I have heard reports of it shooting out 15 to 20 feet.
The Side Tunnel
A few feet into the side tunnel and things are not looking a whole lot better. I remember Larry saying, I dont like the looks of this!
Fortunately just a few feet later things are back to normal. That is... nice solid granite walls and ceilings:-) If you look closely you can just make out Larrys hat, shoes, and legs off in the distance. Just follow his measuring tape.
At 317' into the side tunnel we came upon another blast shield. Although there was no water in the side tunnel it was very humid. In fact if you look closely on the right side of the photo that is fog from our breathing hovering in the air.
Nothing very exciting at the end of the side tunnel. However at 458' it is still a heck of a journey! In all the two tunnels are 2,051' long or .39 of a mile. All for apparently nothing. But then again the town of Manitou Springs now has another source of drinking water!
Life in the Tunnel
I wish I knew more about bats so I would not have been so scared. I guess I have seen one too many horror movies! This bat has been identified by several bat experts as a western small-footed myotis (Myotis ciliolabrum).
Gee, they really do sleep upside-down!
So long from... the Bat Cave!
Sorry, I couldnt resist...